Review by Ain Gide

"Even better than Civ II"

Sid Meier's Alpha Centuari has been out for a while now, and yet, I am still playing it. And that, my friends, is the mark of a classic. Will you still be playing it a year from now? Two years from now? With Alpha Centauri, the answer to this question is a resounding ''YES!''

Presentation: 10
This has a nice, thick manual. Learn the basics through the ''tours'' (tutorials), and then refer to the manual when you are ready to see all this game has to offer. You can learn it by playing, but its always nice to have a manual you can refer to.

Graphics: 7
These are not so great, even for their time. But this is a turn-based strategy game, so it's not a big priority. Even so, they are tolerable. You can actually zoom in the map so that one grid takes up the entire viewing screen. This is where you will see that the units actually look pretty good, even though there is little or no animation. Although the map graphics are mediocre at best, the game features numerous well done movies, including a narrated movie for each ''secret project.''

Sound: 9
What little music Alpha Centauri has is ambient in nature. It blends into the background, adding to the atmosphere of the game. The music is nothing to get excited over, but the sound and voice acting is. The sci-fi weapon effects are well done, and every technology has a commentary associated with it that is read aloud... often by one of the game's faction members.

Some people may feel that 9 is a bit too high of a score, but the sound really adds a sense of immersion to this game that most turn-based strategy games lack. And isn't that the whole point of having sound?

Gameplay: 10
This is just like Civ II, and then some. You build bases and units, research futuristic technologies, build terrain improvements, and launch satellites. However, Alpha Centauri has a planetary government. This adds a whole new dimension of strategy that Civ II lacks. An excellent user interface is icing on the cake.

AI: 10
If your vote disagrees with a neighbor's, you might soon find them knocking on your door with a hovertank. Or maybe you'll give him a friendly suggestion of how they should vote at the next council meeting, helpfully reminding him that you have a Planet Buster missile aimed in his direction. The EXCELLENT AI actually takes these things into account. It thinks just like a human would, and I have never seen a game like this before.

This is one of those rare gems in which the game's idea of ''expert'' skill level is not allowing the computer to cheat. In Alpha Centauri, the computer does not cheat -- it plays hard ball. And it can be pretty ruthless at it.

Replayablity: 10
You actually feel as if you are a real player for power. Your enemies aren't just a different color flag on the map -- they have a personality, ideology, agenda, and voice that defines them as a unique person. Add to this formula an infinite number of strategies, a random map generator, and a highly customizable rule system, and you have a game that can keep you coming back for years.

Should you buy this game? If you haven't already done so, what are you waiting for?? Since you can now find it in the bargain bin by virtual of its age, you really have nothing to lose.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 02/24/01, Updated 02/24/01

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